In the November 2015 issue of USNI Proceedings magazine, retired VADM Douglas Crowder asserted that retired Flag and General Officers should refrain from engaging in the political process , “stay on the sidelines, and away from public endorsements” of candidates in a general election. In his “Hear This”, Crowder seems to believe the genesis of such activity was Admiral William Crowe’s endorsement of Bill Clinton. In reality, however, such activities on the part of retired Generals and Admirals, including their entry into the political process as national candidates, goes back to the founding of our Republic. There has never been a Constitutional prohibition on retired GOFOs participating in the political process, up to and including using the titles of rank that they have earned in the expression of their views and opinions.
For some reason, we are suddenly hearing that such Constitutionally-protected free speech is now “dangerous”, that it could lead to a “politicization” of the Armed Forces. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior Officer on the active list, intimated such when he called that free speech “unhelpful”, and later scolded retired GOFOs for exercising their rights. Apparently he missed the irony of an active agent of the US Government engaging in behavior that has a “chilling effect” on free speech, conduct expressly forbidden as a violation of the very Constitution which Dempsey swore an oath to support and defend. Indeed, Dempsey’s immoderate and despicable conduct illustrates the two things very wrong with VADM Crowder’s admonitions. The first is that there is virtually no complaint or outcry when a GOFO goes on record, either in print or the visual media, expressing support for the far-left agenda. As an example, the gay and lesbian retired GOFOs who openly advocated repeal of DADT were described as being “courageous”, some were even lauded at Obama’s State of the Union addresses. So how is it that, when contrary to the agenda of the far-left, such political expression becomes dangerous? It can’t be. Unless there is a double standard when it comes to Constitutional liberties. Heaven forfend. And, here is where the cognitive dissonance begins. In this month’s Proceedings, Navy Commander Michael Wisecup cautions us on such dangers of retired GOFOs:
“…think of the implications to our profession if a political party could endorse and groom select active-duty (O)fficers into greater positions of authority in order to advocate for their platform.”
Which brings us to the far more disturbing issue that is wrong with VADM Crowder’s (and CDR Wisecup’s) assertions. They have little to do with the true danger, the increasing trend of active-duty Officers carrying the political water for their masters. Warning of the dangers of the lawful free expression assiduously ignores damage being done by the increasingly-politicized GOFO ranks at the top of our Armed Forces under Barack Obama. Advocate for political platforms? Are you kidding me? Such instances are impossible to miss.
- Martin Dempsey’s admonition against lawful free expression was not limited to simply criticism of retired GOFOs who are private citizens. No, General Dempsey, while in the execution of his duties as an active duty Military Officer, admonished a PRIVATE CITIZEN to desist from lawful free expression that the General found disagreeable. Dempsey should have been relieved of his duties. Had he had such objections to retired GOFOs speaking out in support of the far-left agenda of his political master, he would have been relieved had he not kept his mouth shut.
- Admiral Mike Mullen’s shameful charade in front of Congress, when he offered, unprompted, his personal views on repeal of DADT, and proceeded to inform the US Military that any disagreement with them would be considered lack of integrity. Such arrogance and poor judgment also should have been met with censure, but instead Mullen was declared a hero for advancing the political agenda of the far left. That he lost any remaining respect from many of those he was charged with leading mattered little to him. Mullen did, however, admonish Army MajGen Mixon for advising his soldiers to utilize their Constitutional rights in addressing their Congressional representatives.
- After the Islamist terrorist act at Fort Hood in 2009, in which Maj Nidal Hasan screamed “Allahu Akbar!” while shooting 45 Americans, mostly service members, 13 of them fatally, Army Chief of Staff Casey never addressed how a known Islamist extremist might have been accessed into his Army, or how he managed to be promoted to Major. Instead, in an act of pathetic political sycophancy, Casey hoped the Islamist terrorism (still called “workplace violence”) would not affect US Army diversity efforts.
- Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, also pushed incessantly for the codified racial and sexual discrimination known as “diversity”, instead of ensuring the United States Navy was organized, trained, and equipped to fight a war at sea. The Navy, following his tenure as CNO, is woefully unprepared for such an eventuality. However, it seemed far more important to Roughead that the Navy “looked like America”, selecting and promoting its leaders on criteria other than merit and suitability. Race and gender (and sexual preference) have replaced competence and performance. The mess Roughead made will take a decade to clean up, if it even can be.
- In the midst of a sabre-rattling North Korea, with its rapidly increasing ballistic missile capability and nuclear weapons development, and a PLA Navy becoming ever more aggressive and capable, openly hostile to US interests and that of our allies in the Pacific Rim, COMUSPACOM Admiral Sam Locklear declared that the biggest security threat facing his forces was……. global warming.
- As part of the debacle of being relieved for cause as COMUSFOR-A, (ironically, because he and his Officers were highly critical of political leadership) Army General Stanley McChrystal let it be known he had voted for Barack Obama. Revealing whom one voted for while speaking as an active duty Officer was once considered a serious taboo. In fact, I don’t know if I can recall any senior Officer acknowledging such quite so publicly. To the surprise of nobody, as soon as he retired, McCrystal went on to rail about his support for gun control and other leftist agenda items. Nary a peep of protest from Dempsey.
- Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff USMC General “Hoss” Cartwright openly described Constitutional limitations to the authority of the Defense Department as “obstacles” to mission accomplishment rather than necessary bulwarks for the preservation of individual liberties. In what context? To push Barack Obama’s July 2009 agenda to expand the authority of Government over the internet, specifically privately-owned networks and information infrastructure.
Advocating for political platforms, indeed. Yes, it is sometimes a tricky course to navigate, to follow the orders of the President as Commander in Chief, without being an active agent in his advancing a domestic political agenda. But that is why much is expected (or had been, at least) of the professionalism and judgment of senior Officers. Admiral William Leahy, despite his personal bent toward Republican conservatism, was able to serve his President, New-Dealer Franklin Roosevelt, loyally and superbly throughout the Second World War. As did Dwight Eisenhower, who would become the Republican nominee in 1952. There seem to be an ever-shrinking number of GOFOs in the higher ranks of our military with the character and willingness to do so.
The increasing politicization of the senior leadership of the Armed Forces of the United States means such egregious political pandering and subversion of our Constitution will increase, not decrease. Yet, people like VADM Crowder and CDR Wisecup seem to think it is the RETIRED GOFOs that pose the danger to seeing our Armed Forces become yet another government weapon to be used against political opposition instead of fighting and winning our nation’s wars against America’s enemies. I find that quite concerning. Once again, just like we are told after yet another act of Islamist terrorism that law-abiding Americans are to blame for exercising their Constitutional liberties under the Second Amendment, it is actually the GOFO retirees who are the problem, not the invertebrate political lap-dogs on active duty doing the bidding of the left, and that those retirees should refrain from exercising their Constitutional liberties under the First Amendment. Each of those assertions requires the embracing of a dangerous double standard. And each requires a generous helping of cognitive dissonance. A disturbing trend, to be sure.